Monday, 16 February 2015

The Black Lion and The Mesmerist, Brighton

Fully dolled up, made up and wrapped up, the time came for Sinead and I to hit the Laines of Brighton in search of whatever the night would offer us.

We had a plan, a route of attack to wind our way through the narrow curving streets, heading for a mecca of Mexicana we had heard whisper of (that also didn't take bookings as I had found out two hours earlier when on the phone to them).  Our Mexican destination was located at the top of the North Laines, which was a long way to walk for two thirsty Canterbarians.  It was only fair and right that we wet our whistle along the way.

First stop; a recommendation just around the corner from our hotel - The Black Lion.
From the outside, nothing too special.  A little bit grungy, a little bit olde worlde for the tourists - we have the same in Canterbury in the form of a wonderful little rock / indie place called The Black Griffin (what is it about these places and being named after ebony critters?)
Inside though was a cavernous haven of ska heaven.  
The crowd was eclectic and cool, a mixture of students and just-clocked-off-for-the-weekend young professionals crowding around large heavy wooden tables under giant LED stage lights.  Archways framed in street art and up and coming band photos provided private-ish nooks and crannies for groups to crowd into whilst couple cannodled over the more public tables near the fairy light lit bar.
The drinks menu was huge, the gin selection very good so I started off with a Boodles Gin (never had it before, will definitely have it again) whilst Shay dove into a pint of ale.  No idea which one but she approved.  Had she known it at the time, they even have an extensive espresso martini menu with six different varieties.  If you have read her latest offering (and if you haven't, shame on you) you will remember she does have a penchant for a good espresso martini.    Had I realised it they also have an entire menu of Bloody Mary's.  Damn you retrospect!

The music was amazing - a mix of ska, reggae, soul and funk that just got you bopping along as you waited to be served.  Despite the crowds, the bar staff are fast as well and we waited no more than a couple of minutes before we were seated, drinks in hand to enjoy the ambiance.
One drink down and more to explore, we left, reluctantly to continue on our journey.  The board behind the bar advertised a ska battle later that evening, and we promised to return on our way back to the hotel.
Around the corner we found our next stop, a long building with too many doors to try and get into known as The Mesmerist. Another bar with character, this one is inspired by the 1930's gin palaces, steampunk and burlesque.  
I must confess; I didn't pick up on this when I was there, and I'm a rather large fan of both steampunk and burlesque.  The art work was funky and I did approve of that, the gin menu was large and I also approved of that, I just didn't get the whole steampunk/ burlesque vibe they were going for.  
In all honesty, if anything, I got more of a Mexican Day of the Dead feeling.  I genuinely don't remember what music they were playing when we were there, but they have a resident DJ who spins 'boutique classics and vintage rarities'.  Probably the Dresden Dolls then (whom I happen to be a rather swooning fan of).  Have a look at the music mash ups on the website!
This place is huge - it just keeps going.  There is a long bar downstairs and upstairs another bar (that was closed off for a private party) and huge American style diner booths done up in mahogany stained wood and mock chesterfield leather banquette seats.  Downstairs there is a black and white photobooth you can play in to your hearts content.
It had the feeling of somewhere that would get very, very busy later in the evening and turn into more of a club venue (open until 2am).  The bar staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and occasionally get rid of the annoying man pestering you by helpfully (accidentally) pinging the cap off your bottle of tonic water at his face and bouncing it off his nose as they prepare you a Sipsmith's and tonic.  I'm not sure this is a regular service, but ask nicely.....
They do have a Saturday night extravaganza at midnight, but alas we were hours away from that time at the moment and would soon need to go in search of our Mexican sustenance.  As it was though, the first couple of recommendations on our Brighton tour had proven to be remarkably good finds.  Onwards and upwards!
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